By Tessa Raebeck
Scott Schwartz is excited. He’s excited about art, he’s excited about expansion and he’s especially excited about world premieres. The new artistic director for Bay Street Theatre, Mr. Schwartz has announced his inaugural Mainstage season and crafted his artistic vision for the theater, which includes broadening its programming to include more traditional works, developing new plays and musicals and “bringing the best and most exciting theater artists to Sag Harbor.”
Mr. Schwartz has been a freelance director for over 20 years, working on and off Broadway, in London and Japan, and with not-for-profit theaters across the country. He has been an associate artist at the Alley Theatre in Houston since 2007.
“I’m just so thrilled now to be working at Bay Street with this wonderful theater,” Mr. Schwartz said Sunday. “Bay Street has an amazing history, an amazing reputation and this tradition of doing great work, so I want to continue that tradition—and I want to expand upon it.”
Mr. Schwartz has three primary goals for Bay Street: Bringing artists from around the country “and perhaps eventually around the world” to Sag Harbor, as well as working with local artists “to create the most exciting theatrical productions;” maintaining a deep commitment to new work, developing new plays and musicals in-house; and expanding the repertoire of productions at Bay Street to include “some of the greatest works of the theatre of all time,” including classic works by Chekhov, Shakespeare and other great historical writers.
“The most important thing for me,” said Mr. Schwartz, “is, ultimately, the productions we do be visionary, exciting, innovative and also be entertaining—a place the audience comes to both be challenged, but also have a great time.”
The Mainstage season begins May 31 with the world premiere of “Conviction,” a modern drama written by Carey Crim that Mr. Schwartz will direct. “It’s a piece I’m very, very excited about,” he said about the play.
“Conviction” centers on Tom Hodges, a popular and caring teacher, husband and father who seems to have it all. The play examines the strength of that foundation when Tom gets accused and then convicted of having an inappropriate relationship with a student.
“It really is a family drama,” explained Mr. Schwartz, “and really is about all of us in that we all have moments in our relationships where we realize we can’t fully know the person we’re in a relationship with, we never can. It’s not possible to know every aspect of another person. And thus how do we live our lives under those circumstances? We have to have conviction about the person we’re with, but when that’s challenged, what do we do?”
That universal significance resonates with the director, who emphasizes the humanity in all the plays coming to Bay Street this summer as part of its “season of art and revolution.”
Richard Kind will return to Bay Street from June 24 to July 20 as the star of the Tony Award-winning comedy “Travesties.” Directed by Gregory Boyd, who Mr. Schwartz calls “brilliant,” the Tom Stoppard comedy is set in 1917 and 1974 in Zurich, Switzerland. It fantasizes about the interaction of British consul Henry Carr (played by Mr. Kind) and some of the major figures of the 20th century, including James Joyce and Lenin, who were living in Zurich at the time.
“I think that play is the centerpiece of our season … what it really gets at is the sort of passion and fire and revolutionary spirit of these guys as they’re trying to meet girls and trying to have a great time,” Mr. Schwartz said.
The third Mainstage production is another world premiere, “My Life Is a Musical,” which will run from July 29 to August 31. Director/choreographer Marlo Hunter and writer/composer Adam Overett are “both real rising stars in musical theater,” said Mr. Schwartz.
The musical comedy follows the journey of Parker, a man who experiences the entire world as if in a musical, with everyone he meets appearing to sing and dance. Initially embarrassed by his peculiar worldview, Parker ultimately learns to love even the part of him that makes him different.
“We all have things about ourselves that we feel don’t fit in or we’re not comfortable with, this show explores that life from a wonderful, musical land,” Mr. Schwartz said of the high-energy musical.
Mr. Schwartz’s vision for Bay Street extends past the Mainstage. In late April, the inaugural New Play Festival at Bay Street will host readings of new plays by three “very exciting” writers. A summer initiative will bring outdoor readings of Shakespeare’s work to the community. The summer camp program is being expanded to Southampton and the theater is launching after-hours programming “to offer fun, cool theatrical experiences to our audience late night,” Mr. Schwartz said.
On February 10, Bay Street announced the launch of The Scott Schwartz New Directions Fund to “honor the vision of its new artistic director.”
“This fund,” said Tracy Mitchell, executive director of Bay Street, “marks the kick-off to an amazing season of a very new Bay Street.”